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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Former diplomats urge peace
Protest in Indian-administered Kashmir
Kashmir is an emotional issue for both sides
By Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

Former diplomats of India and Pakistan have urged leaders of the two countries to work towards lasting peace in the region.

They said an opportunity had been created with the ceasefire announcement by a prominent militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, and the positive response given to it by India.

The former diplomats were speaking at a seminar in Islamabad on bilateral issues, which is part of the ongoing informal contact the two countries, known as Track-2 diplomacy.

Indian soldiers during Kargil conflict
"Kargil conflict should be put behind"
All speakers stressed on the need for a prolonged process of dialogue to resolve the disputes.

Former Indian foreign secretary, Salman Haider said perhaps the best way was to concentrate on "quiet diplomacy".

He said it was necessary to avoid any controversies before any agreement was arrived at between the two sides.

Co-operation

Another former Indian diplomat, MK Rasgotra said India was sufficiently strong and stable to solve its problems, including the issue of Kashmir.

However, he said, it will be much better if the dispute over Kashmir is solved with the help of Pakistan.

Mr Rasgotra said there was need to put last year's Kargil conflict behind and asked Pakistan to help India to forget it.

Information Minister Javed Jabbar
Javed Jabbar: Pakistan has called for dialogue
Pakistan's former foreign secretary Najmuddin Shaikh said even when the Kashmir issue is being discussed, the two sides can try and address other relatively smaller disputes to create a conducive atmosphere.

He said India needs Pakistan for the economic progress of the region, and said the two nations can together reap the benefit of trade with the central Asian states.

Pakistan's Information Minister Javed Jabbar, who chaired the seminar, said the military ruler General Pervez Musharraf had repeatedly called for a dialogue between the two countries.

He said Islamabad wants to improve the situation in the region, but said it will be a mistake to think that India can resolve the Kashmir dispute by bypassing Pakistan.

The group of former Indian diplomats is also expected to meet a number of senior Pakistani officials, including the foreign minister.

Though it is not an official visit, many in Pakistan believe, it may pave the way for some kind of formal contact between the two countries.

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See also:

28 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir offensive 'suspended'
24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir militants offer ceasefire
15 Jul 99 | South Asia
Flashpoint Kashmir: Special Report
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